An animal trail represents Step 1: Planning and Setting Goals.

Step 1: Setting Goals and Planning

Monitoring the climate or the impacts of climate change is a long-term endeavor. Changes to the environment tend to happen slowly and are not always immediately noticeable. When starting a community-based climate monitoring project, it’s important to design the project with a long-term vision and goal in mind. Long-term datasets collected over several years, or even decades, are necessary for planning decisions related to environmental management, environmental restoration, and climate change adaptation.

When designing a project, it’s important to determine clear goals at the outset and to thoughtfully plan the various stages. Having a clear plan will increase the likelihood of successfully implementing your project and generating meaningful results for your community.

Step 1 will explore setting goals as well as outline the steps in the project planning process.

Why It’s Important

Setting clear goals and thoughtfully planning your project will help you:

  • Focus on completing tasks on time
  • Avoid taking on additional work outside of your project scope
  • Focus on employee retention, morale, and professional development
  • Initiate and nurture relationships with external partners
  • Gain leadership and community buy-in
  • Manage project spending carefully
  • Anticipate potential challenges and unforeseen circumstances
  • Maintain clear measures of success

Key Questions and Considerations

Setting Goals

Goal setting begins with identifying problems, challenges, or knowledge gaps. Start by reflecting on concerns and priorities you have heard from your community. Has your community observed an environmental change they are concerned about? Examples may include:

  • Changes to water quality and fish
  • Coastal erosion
  • Increase in drought or wildfires
  • Changes to wildlife migration routes
  • Increased disease in wildlife
  • Changes to berries and traditional medicines
  • Changes in permafrost or ice conditions

If so, you can turn these community concerns into project goals. If not, it’s recommended to engage with your community to learn about their concerns and priorities. Learn more about community engagement in Step 2: Working Together and Step 6: Learning and Sharing.

Selecting goals that are important to your community will strengthen community buy-in and support for your project.

When setting goals, focus on making them well-defined, measurable, and attainable. Well-defined goals are specific and easy to understand. Goals that are measurable set a parameter that allows you to evaluate progress. Attainable goals are ones that can be achieved in a reasonable timeframe and using accessible resources. Lastly, it’s important to assign deadlines to goals to create a sense of urgency and motivation.

Reflection questions for goal setting:

  • What problems, challenges, or gaps in knowledge does your community have?
  • What would you like to achieve through your community-based climate monitoring project?
  • What traditional and scientific studies have already been done?
  • What has and has not worked well in the past?
  • What resources do you need to accomplish your desired outcome(s)?
  • How will you know when you have achieved your desired outcome(s)?
  • How will your community benefit from the desired outcome(s)?

Identifying clear monitoring questions is important to ensure your project is focused. Learn more about developing research questions and selecting monitoring indicators in Step 4: Approach and Methods.

Helpful Tip

Sample Project Goals and Objectives

Vision Statement

Nation wants to learn how climate change is impacting salmon so that negative effects can be mitigated to ensure healthier populations over the long term.

Priorities and Problem Statement

According to Elders and knowledge holders, salmon in our rivers are very low compared to historical populations. It is unclear how climate change is impacting the populations.


We want to begin a long-term monitoring program that will allow our Nation to learn 1) how climate change is negatively impacting salmon and 2) what management actions we can implement to improve population health.

 Objectives for 3 years of Monitoring

  1. Engage community to learn of possible threats, including but not limited to climate change, that may have caused salmon to decline.
  2. Given potential threats/drivers identified in (1), draft a monitoring plan, which will include key research questions and measurables, and a draft study design showing some initial ideas for sampling over time and space. The plan should include ways to follow the principles of ‘adaptive management’, or, learning by doing.
  3. Implement the monitoring plan through a pilot approach.
  4. Collect, manage, and analyze the data then summarize and communicate findings to the community. Data collection tasks will include:
    • Procure water quality sonde and train staff on sonde deployment and maintenance, as well as management and storage of water quality data.
    • Implement sampling design – sample water quality in locations and at times according to design, etc.
  1. Evaluate and re-design the monitoring program as necessary to improve sampling efficiency and data quality, use results of evaluation and three years of monitoring to revise the monitoring plan to form a long-term monitoring program to evaluate climate change impacts on salmon.

Planning Your Project

Project planning is the process of establishing your scope, defining your goals, and determining how you will achieve these goals through setting objectives. Before starting your project, it’s important to think through the various stages and to determine your needs. The steps and questions listed below may assist you in developing a project plan:

Writing a plan list in a journal.

1. Determine the scope of your project

  • What are the concerns or priorities of your community?
  • Are there related projects in the community you could build on or learn from?
  • Does your community have a climate change plan or mandate?

2. Determine available resources

  • Who are your community champions?
  • Who can support the project?
  • Does your team require training to support the project?
  • Does your community have funding to implement the project?
  • Does your community have existing equipment, tools, and technology that can be used towards your project?

3. Determine the tasks

  • What are your main project objectives?
  • How will you complete these objectives?

4. Develop a schedule

  • When will the project tasks be completed?
  • Can certain tasks only be completed at certain times of the year?

5. Create a budget

  • How much does each project task cost?
  • Does your estimated project budget correspond with the available funding?

6. Determine supports

  • Are professional services or partnerships needed?
  • What organizations or research institutes can you partner with?

7. Determine how you will manage data

  • What data management platforms are available?
  • Will you require a software license?
  • Who will have access to data and community Knowledge?
  • How will you protect community Knowledge?

More information in Step 5: Knowledge Management

8. Assess your success

  • What does success mean to your community?
  • How will you track information and successes throughout the project?
  • How will you ensure long-term sustainability of your project? (refer to Sustainability and Funding section)

More information in Step 7: Evaluation and Reflection.

9. Develop a communication strategy

  • How will you report back results to leadership and the greater community?
  • Will you share results outside of your community?

More information in Step 6: Learning and Sharing.

Tool Spotlight

Grants & Funding

The Sustainability and Funding page of this Toolkit includes funding opportunities and grant writing resources.